The Alleged Gunmen
Some Record Store
Sunday, Sept. 23
Life has taught us few, if any, lessons, largely because we happen to be stupid and stubborn, but this we pass on to you: most bands that cop off the Clash should be put up against the wall when that revolution comes because they almost always fuck it up. They're all style (style second only to that whole neo-New York Dolls thing in its capacity to induce vomiting—next time you wish you hadn't choked down all those Quaaludes, just take a peek at some pompadoured street-punk band and puke yourself up a second chance) and nil substance. Just because you bought your gas-station jacket at the thrift store doesn't mean you know anything about blue-collar resentment, okay?
But then we got the Alleged Gunmen: "They got the true essence of the Clash," someone told us this summer, and that someone was very smart. Call it "Long Beach Calling"—these guys take that impeccable melodic sensibility that really pushed the Clash into the spotlight and twist it into something right-now relevant. With their keyboard player now on bass and consequent lineup adjustments, they're building a more stripped-down sound: the old drummer left and apparently took most of the drum set with him, but the new guy—possibly the most intense member of a trio already so intense they've developed their own gravitational field—dug more texture and flash out of a nondescript bass drum, snare and ride cymbal than a whole roomful of moneyed fuckwits at Guitar Center could ever wet dream about. Never a slack movement with that guy. Singer George plays like he means it to a scene full of people who play at playing like they mean it: he'll crack a smile and a joke between songs, but once the count-off clicks out, he's consumed by concentration. And we like. "Passion" used to be just a word we found in the back of porno mags, but the Gunmen have it to the point of contagion; usually we smirk when someone uses a word like "revolution" in a song, but the Gunmen make it sound almost plausible. First you sing it, then you say it, then you think it, and then you do it—isn't that how things are supposed to change? God, we're so embarrassing sometimes.
Some Other Record Store
Monday, Sept. 24
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This was the secret show of the summer: these tousle-haired moppets signed to a major label (so we're told, anyway) and pogoed through the Palace two nights before, but thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of the well-connected at this little store, we locals got one last chance for a little intimacy before the Briefs turn into the next kind-of-big thing. Indeed, there's already a backlash against these boys (oh, yeah: they covered a Boys song later in the evening) among the more-hipsterly-than-thou set: "Believe the hype," muttered one of our cranky, Briefs-bashing buddies. But, hey, we wanted to believe. Ever since seeing these kids tumble through the Weirdos' "Neutron Bomb" somewhere in Austin six months ago, we've wanted to, if for nothing more than the fact they do all the covers you need to hear. Their Hit After Hit CD is a tightly wound little creature that lifts liberally from lots of raw old West Coast bands, but in real life, the Briefs are actually more about the cute 'n' cuddly cartoon punk of the Dickies—so cute 'n' cuddly that a random poll revealed that three out of four correspondingly cute girls in attendance totally love the Briefs! (Of course, there were no cute boys available for research, just the zitty mutants you usually see at punk shows, ourselves proudly included.) They were a fashion show and a half, too, but OC has been flashing pink and black tops around since Day One, so no one was much impressed; even after cans of Tecate started circulating, the crowd confined itself to polite applause and scattered outbreaks of head bobbing (maybe they didn't want to damage any merchandise and risk beatings by store clerks). Too bad: they were just as polished if not more so than Hit After Hit, and they even relented and played "Neutron Bomb" right at the end. All us zitty mutants and cute girls sang along; karaoke might be no solution, but it's what we wanna hear. Unfortunately, they lost big punk points (and tasteless asshole points, which are even more valuable) by pussing out on their cover of "Let's Get Rid of New York." Do "Let's Have a War" next time, and we'll call it even.